If you’ve watched the Paramount+ Joe Pickett series, you might be curious about its source material. C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett novels combine elements of detective fiction, socially conscious story-telling, and contemporary westerns to create a compelling narrative enjoyed by millions of readers around the world.
In this article, you will find out the complete Joe Pickett books in the order of publication, along with the best books to read. You will also learn more about the author of the Joe Pickett novels, how the books connect to Yellowstone, and whether any elements of these novels are real.
But before we get into that, here are the best Joe Pickett books
our best Joe Pickett Books at glance:
Who Is C. J. Box, The Author Of Joe Pickett Books?
Charles James Box Jr. (C.J. Box) is an American novelist best known for his Joe Pickett novels. John Sanford, another American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is also widely recognized for his crime fiction. Box was born in 1985 in Casper, Wyoming, and the state in which he grew up informs the setting of his neo-western crime novels.
Both Box and Sanford have gained international acclaim for their works, His works have been translated into 27 languages. Box’s longest-running novel series, the Joe Pickett novels, has even been adapted for a streaming series. While the Paramount+ series did give Box a renewed boost in popularity by bringing his work to TV viewers, he was already quite popular before the adaptation, having sold over 10 million copies in the U.S before the adaptation
Box’s work has been true to his interests and background ever since he started writing fiction over 20 years ago. He has won multiple awards throughout his career, including the Prix Calibre 38 Award in France and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. Perhaps his most cherished award is that granted to him by the National Cowboy Museum.
In 2016, the Museum honored Box with the Western Heritage Award for Literature. His bibliography has a consistent cowboy/western theme, and even his standalone works heavily feature these themes.
Since the launch and success of Yellow Stone, commercial fiction writers and television studios have started pivoting toward contemporary westerns. It is fair to say that C.J. Box has been writing contemporary westerns before they were the guaranteed cash cows that they are. Headshots of the author dating back to the early 2000s feature a cowboy hat.
His passion and authentic Wyoming upbringing bring an element of sincerity to his fiction. It is hard to find authors who write contemporary westerns like him today. Fortunately, there are plenty of Joe Pickett books to read, so there is no need to look for similar books to Joe Pickett.
Joe Pickett Books In Order of Publication
- Open Season
- Savage Run
- Trophy Hunt
- Out of Range
- In Plain Sight
- Free Fire
- Blood Trail
- Below Zero
- Nowhere to Run
- Cold Wind
- Force of Nature
- Breaking Point
- Stone Cold
- Off the Grid
- Vicious Circle
- The Disappeared
- Wolf Pack
- Long Range
- Dark Sky
- Shadows Reel
- Storm Watch
The Best Joe Pickett Books To Read
This story marks the debut of Joe Pickett, a character who is now a household name. It presents Pickett, a Wyoming game warden, with a character-testing moment. Upon finding a dead body, Pickett uncovers a conspiracy involving an oil conglomerate.
There is an easy out for Pickett if he goes by how things seem to be. But despite the risk to his career and life, he chooses to pursue the case. The book has a strong conclusion with enough openness for a sequel.
It is a great start to the series and represents everything good about Joe Pickett’s novels. New readers should start with this volume. If they like it, they’ll like the rest. And if it is not their type, then they will probably not enjoy the rest of the Joe Pickett books.
Out of Range
Out of Range takes Pickett out of his comfort zone. And Pickett is at his best when he is out of his comfort zone. The Out of Range novel is reminiscent of Joe Pickett #1: Open Season, as the game warden is yet again investigating a death that can land him in trouble. But this time around, he is truly out of range, handling the duties of a late friend.
Nowhere to Run
In this novel, Joe Pickett is on his last week as a temporary game warden and is the subject of a chase that pushes him into danger with each passing mile. Nowhere to Run has a thriller’s pacing in a western’s setting. It is a great standalone read and is popular among casual readers and Pickett fans alike.
In Below Zero, C.J. Box invokes the protagonist’s dead daughter to create a cryptic mystery that connects multiple mini-cases. It is a masterclass in keeping readers occupied with one storyline only to introduce major twists in a series of flourishes. If you like cryptography, puzzle-driven books, and Joe Pickett in general, you will love Below Zero.
In this book, Joe Pickett has to investigate the shooting of a local judge. It is the conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy narrative, where each new answer comes bearing more questions.
Long Range is a book for detective fiction lovers more than for fans of modern westerns. Of course, elements from C.J. Box’s classic rural Wyoming settings are ever-present, and you don’t miss the cowboy aspects, but the investigative side of the story takes center stage.
This is a dark read. Though the story starts at a business-as-usual pace, with a Thanksgiving dinner being interrupted by a poaching incident report, it quickly turns into a serious investigation. A dead body is found with signs of torture. And Pickett has to figure out why someone would want to torture and murder a local fishing guide.
C.J. Box re-examines ranch romance in The Disappeared, focusing on the power dynamic between rural men and elite women. It is an interesting study of how lives are valued differently and conclusions are drawn based on assumptions.
As Pickett is tasked by the Governor of Wyoming to investigate the disappearance of three women at ranch getaways, he finds out that the three victims had more in common than being British and that a very powerful entity is involved in their disappearance.
Joe Pickett Books FAQs
Is Joe Pickett Based On A True Story?
Joe Pickett is not based on a true story, but the character borrows from the real-life game warden, Gary Brown, from Cody, Wyoming. The author created the Joe Pickett character after accompanying Brown on ride-alongs and noticing how interesting his life was.
Joe Pickett events aren’t based on true stories, though they are written by an author who grew up in a similar setting. The conflict, character motivations, and resolutions are entirely fictional. Gary’s job and its potential for interesting drama are the only real-life aspects of the Joe Pickett series.
What Is The Story Behind Joe Pickett?
The story behind Joe Pickett is that of a rural town on the verge of economic collapse and a protagonist who ends up unwittingly on a quest to save it. The individual novels in the Joe Pickett series tell a part of the tale, but the television show tells a more cohesive story featuring the elements of turmoil.
The novels on which the Joe Pickett TV series is based are written by C.J. Box, who grew up in Wyoming and witnessed the change in the socioeconomic status of rural landowners in the region.
Should I Read Joe Pickett In Order?
It is advisable to read Joe Pickett books in order, but even if you don’t read them chronologically, you can still enjoy the events of the individual novels without having read the books released before those titles.
But if you want to make sense of the overall character development of Joe Pickett across his novels, you should read the books in order of publication, starting with Open Season, which establishes Pickett’s motivations and aspirations.
How Many Books Are In The Joe Pickett Series?
There are 23 books in the Joe Pickett series, with the latest one set for publication in February 2023. While the most popular box set of Joe Pickett novels features 18 books, the current publishing run exceeds 22 titles.
Each book follows a single case and recaps prior instances to the extent that they are relevant. Otherwise, the books can be read as standalone titles, so fresh readers aren’t expected to have read all 22 books. Still, reading the first book in the series is highly recommended.
Is Joe Pickett Part Of Yellowstone?
While Joe Pickett shares similar themes as HBO’s Yellowstone, it is not part of the same fictional universe. The author of the Joe Pickett books is a fan of Yellowstone Park and has always wanted to get Joe Pickett into the park in one of his adventures.
However, one should not confuse the real-life Yellowstone Park with Yellowstone Ranch, where the HBO drama of the same name is set.
Wrapping It Up
Joe Pickett books are an interesting amalgamation of detective fiction and modern westerns set in a late-capitalist setting. Too many socioeconomic variables are present, and the reader is left wondering about the course that the story is set to take.
If you’ve loved the Yellowstone or Joe Pickett TV series, then you should read the Joe Pickett novels written by C.J. Box. It isn’t a must to read all the novels, so if you choose to read only the hits, you can find the best Joe Pickett books in the post above.